Friday, October 24, 2008

Private William Muir Laughton

Private Laughton Joins the CEF

William Muir Laughton had 1 months service with the 107th "East Kootenay" Regiment in Nelson. British Columbia when he attested to the 225th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on March 16, 1916. The 225th would be absorbed by the 1st Reserve Battalion to provide for reinforcements in the field.

Private Laughton's records indicate that he was born in Brandon Manitoba on January 24, 1893 and that he was 23 years 2 months old when he attested. His brother John Laughton #525302 also joined the CEF. William gave his mother Mary "Minnie" Laughton as his next of kin and John listed their father David Laughton. William listed his occupation as that of a "Meat Cutter".

Unlike his brother John, William did serve in England and France. He survived the war and was discharged on April 2, 1919. The Laughton men were not large in that era, as at 5' 6" tall he checked out of the army at a mere 135 pounds.

Service Record of William Muir Laughton

Private Laughton's detailed service record shows that he sailed to England on board the S. S. Grampain, arriving on February 6, 1917. The "Transport Ship Records" show that the Grampian left Halifax on January 26, 1917 with the 225th Battalion and landed at Plymouth, England.

Upon arrival in England, William was taken-on-strength by the 16th Reserve Battalion at Seaford and it is there that he probably received further military training. The CEF had found that they had no alternative but to break-up the new battalions to feed men to the active units in the field, as the depletion rate was far more than anyone had expected.

William's promotion and transfer record shows that he was promoted to Sergeant on July 17, 1916, however the same records show that in December of the same year he was to be "Acting Sergeant" while on duty in the Orderly Room. There is no indication that this position was carried forward to his service in the field.

It appears that Private Laughton did not make it to France in time to serve in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, as he was not taken-on-strength to an active unit until April 18, 1917.

He was granted 14 days leave to England on December 11, 1917 and returned December 27, 1917. The next entry in his record shows that he was granted a "Good Conduct Badge" in the field (France) on May 14, 1917. He was granted another 14 days leave on December 2, 1918 returning on December 22, 1918.

There are no further entries until his return to England is noted on February 13, 1919 and then discharged to Canada on March 16, 1919 on the Olympic. His pay records show "Miss Mattie Harvey" as the original assignee of his pay at that time. Other records show Mattie listed as his "Fiancee", so he may have been engaged prior to service in the field. Family records show "Martha Harvey" to be his wife.

There is a note in his service record that William Muir Laughton died on March 31, 1943.

The 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles in France

There are no detailed accounts of Private W. M. Laughton's service in France so we must look to the records of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles to see what transpired between April 18, 1917 and the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918. The 2nd CMR served in France and Flanders with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifle Brigade from September 1915 until January 1916. Thereafter it was reorganized and the 2nd CMR served with the 8th Infantry Brigade of the newly formed 3rd Canadian Division. Private W. M. Laughton would have only served the 2nd CMR in that latter capacity, as he was not taken-on-strength until late April 1917.

At the time that Private Laughton began his service with the 2nd CMR the CEF was just commencing action in the Second Battle of the Scarpe. At the time, the 8th Infantry Brigade (see war diaries) of the 3rd Division was coming off rest at Villers de Bois and the 2nd CMR was assigned as a working party at the Goodman Tunnel. During the subsequent warm months the 8th Brigade interchanged with the 9th Brigade to man the front line trenches and carry out numerous raids. On June 6, 1917 General Sir Arthur Currie took command of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, resulting now in a Canadian leading the Canadians. August 1917 brought the significant action of the CEF against Hill 70 and Lens, to drive the Germans out of the coal mining and industrial sector. However the 3rd Division did not participate actively, arriving after the main action to relieve the 1st Division on August 23, 1917.

October and November 1917 would bring the Canadians into the great battle for the capture of Passchendaele, as the CEF moved further north and back into Belgium. The 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles moved with the 8th Brigade of the 3rd Division on the north flank of the attack, having to move quickly to plug the gaps in the open flanks of the Canadian and British lines. The CEF moved on and captured Passchendaele on November 6, 1917.

War diary of the 2nd CMR on October 30, 1917:

The winter of 1917 through to the spring of 1918 was not dominated by major actions of the CEF in France and Flanders, however they continued to defend the line and conduct raids. In late March the Germans started their big push into central France, the brunt of which was against the British and French armies. The German offensive actions continued with the Offensive in Picardy in March-April 1918 and the Advance to the Marne in May-June 1918. The German offensives ended on August 6, 1918 and two days later the Canadians began what is know in history as "Canada's Hundred Days".
From August 8, 1918 until the Armistice, the Canadians entered into a much more mobile action, driving through the Hindenburg Line to Cambrai, then from Cambrai through Valenciennes and on to Mons, where the Great War first started. The 2nd CMR are remembered for the capture of the Hamlet of Le Quesnoy on August 10, 1918. Thereafter, the major actions where the 2nd CMR participated were at the Battle of Arras (August 26th to September 5th); the Crossing of the Canal du Nord and the Taking of Cambrai (September 27th to October 11th); and the Final Advance to Mons (October 12th to November 11th).
To learn more about the actions of the 2nd CMR during this period, please refer to Livesay's authoritative text on "Canada's Hundred Days" and Nicholson's "Official History of the Canadian Army: Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919". Both of these texts are available on the Internet.


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